Tips to Avoid UTI
What Is Urinary Tract Infection?
The urinary system in the body is made up of the kidneys and the ureters which make up the upper urinary tract and the bladder and the urethra which make up the lower urinary tract. The kidneys generate urine which is sent to the bladder through pipes called ureters. The bladder is emptied out of the body through a short tube called the urethra.
Bacteria, virus and fungus can infect the urethra and thereafter the bladder, causing what is called the lower urinary tract infection (UTI). This is more common and when detected in time, the condition can be treated effectively. However, if left untreated, UTI can spread to the kidneys and lead to kidney damage eventually.
Causes of UTI
- The urethra is close to the anus (in both men and women) as well as the vagina in women. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a type of bacteria that is present in faeces and hence in the anus too. These bacteria can spread from the anus to the urethra and infect it. Women are more at risk as the urethra is shorter in women than in men.
- Further, bacterial contamination from the vagina, if the person is suffering from venereal diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, also poses a risk to women.
- Also, if either partner is suffering from UTI, the chances of passing on the condition to their sexual partner are high.
- The aforementioned are the most common causes for lower UTI.
- In rare cases, viral infection can cause UTI.
- So also, fungus that develops from wearing damp underwear or tight-fitting clothes can cause UTI.
Types and Symptoms of UTI
Depending on which part of the urinary system is infected, UTI manifests as different conditions with unique symptoms:
- Infection of the Urethra (Urethritis): This can cause a burning sensation while urinating.
- Infection of the Bladder (Cystitis): The person may want to urinate repeatedly or may experience burning sensation while urinating. The urine may be cloudy and the person may have pain in the lower abdomen.
- Infection of the Kidneys (Pyelonephritis): The person has chills or fever, feels tired or shaky, has pain in the upper back or side, nausea and vomiting.
- Other symptoms include:
- An intense or frequent urge to urinate with little urine discharged.
- Dark coloured, bloody or strange-smelling urine.
- Pain in the pelvic area for women and rectal (anal) area for men.
- Frequent and intense sexual activity with one or more partners and new partners poses a risk to both men and women.
- Some Types of Contraception: Women who use diaphragms and spermicidal agents are at higher risk.
- Excessive use of lubricants for the vagina and deodorants for the pubic area increase the risk.
- A reduction in oestrogen production after menopause makes women more vulnerable to different types of infection including UTI.
- Infants who have urinary tract abnormalities since birth have reduced outflow of urine which increases the risk of UTI of the bladder.
- Any blockage to urine flow, such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, causes reduced outflow of urine which increases the risk of UTI of the bladder.
- Weakened Immune System: Diabetes and many other ailments reduce the body’s ability to fight microbes and hence increase the risk of UTI.
- Use of Catheter: People who have trouble urinating due to some health condition must use a catheter and this increases their risk of UTI.
- Recent Urinary Procedure: Any surgery to the urinary tract which involves the use of medical instruments increases the risk of UTI.
- Older adults are more at risk than youngsters.
- A previous history of UTI increases the risk of recurrent infections.
- Pregnancy increases the risk of UTI.
Complications from UTI if Left Untreated
- Recurring UTI episodes - more common in women.
- Kidney failure, if pyelonephritis is not treated in time.
- Pregnant women with UTI may deliver prematurely or deliver low-weight babies.
- Narrowing of the urethra in men who have recurrent UTIs.
- Sepsis, which is a complication arising out of infection of the kidneys.
Diagnosis and Treatment of UTI
There are various tests to diagnose UTI and options for treatment.
Tips to Avoid UTI
- Drink plenty of fluids like plain water, tender coconut water, fruit juices and buttermilk.Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.This helps dilute the urine and makes you urinate often. This also helps in flushing out the bacteria from your urinary tract regularly thereby reducing the risk of infection. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine as these can irritate the bladder.
- Do not hold your urine for long; empty your bladder often. Don’t rush while urinating and ensure bladder is completely empty. Further, both men and women should empty their bladder immediately after sexual intercourse. Also, wash your genital area before and after sexual intercourse.
- Both men and women should avoid bathing in a bath-tub and should shower instead.
- Women who use toilet-paper as against water for cleaning themselves should wipe from front to back and not back to front. This prevents pushing of the bacteria in the anal region towards the urethra.
- Women should avoid perfumes, deodorant sprays, douches or powders in the genital area as these can irritate the urethra.
- Women should avoid contraceptive measures such as diaphragms, un-lubricated condoms or spermicidal creams as they can either irritate the urethra or lead to bacterial growth. Talk to your doctor about the most suitable contraceptive option.
- Women should avoid tampons and use sanitary pads or menstrual cups instead.
- Both genders should avoid tight-fitting clothes or nylon underwear as they trap moisture and encourage bacterial or fungal growth. Always wear cotton underwear and best-fitting clothes.
If you are diagnosed with UTI, do not panic. Reach out to reputed hospitals in Chennai as they have the best urologists in Chennai. These specialists will design the best course of treatment for quick recovery and rehabilitation.
Dr Muruganandham K
HOD & Senior Consultant, Institute of Renal Sciences
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.